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Aretha Franklin to sing for Pope Francis during US visit

by Desmond Busteed

The "Queen of Soul" is due to play at the Festival of Families in Philadelphia on the penultimate night of the pontiff's 6-day trip to America.

The 72-year-old will be introduced on stage by Hollywood actor and devout Catholic Mark Wahlberg will act as host of the closing ceremony for the triennial World Meeting of Families conference on September 26.

Wahlberg,44, has credited his Catholic faith and a parish priest for his success after a rough upbringing in Boston that included drug abuse and a number of racially motivated attacks as a teenager.

The next day Francis will celebrate Mass before an expected crowd of more than 1 million people.

AP Photo

Catholics make up 20.8% of the US population, down from 23.9% in 2007, according to data released in spring by the Pew Research Center.

For every convert, six others have left the faith; with about 3 million fewer adult Catholics than eight years ago.

Another poll by Gallup says Francis' 59% overall favorable rating among Americans exceeds Pope Benedict XVI's 40% when he visited in 2010.

Pope Francis will be in the country for six days and is due to arrive on the afternoon of September 22 in Washington DC.

His stay in the capital will include a White House visit, a parade and a public appearance on the West Front of the Capitol.

The Pope then goes to New York, where on September 25 he will speak at the United Nations, participate in a parade through Central Park and say Mass at Madison Square Garden before returning to Rome.

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